Goodbye Roaring Twenties!

Posted on January 2nd, by Birdie in Birdie's Adventures, Fashion and Style, Outfit Photos. 2 comments

AKA: the Gatsby New Year’s Birthday Party of the Century…

Three days ago I turned 30. It doesn’t feel much different than any of my 20′s aside from the fact that I know more now than I did then. However, the milestone occasion called for an amazing celebration filled with beaded dresses, bubbles and vintage furs, beautiful people and the Sorrento hotel…

Birdie's Gatsby Birthday Bash
So that night, we said goodbye to my roaring twenties, danced to shout, and counted 2012 away.  2013, I can’t wait to see what you bring.

View the rest of the photos here…

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Social + Search: Building A Better Search Engine

Posted on October 31st, by Birdie in Social Media for Bloggers. No Comments

Just promoting a little post I wrote for the RoryMartin.com team on SocialMediaToday

A recent article on ZDNet posited that Google will continue to be the primary search engine of choice for the foreseeable future.  With competitors like Bing clamoring to get a slice of the “search pie”, and Facebook’s experiment in social search, it’s not easy to predict the future of search engines.  The data, however, leads to interesting questions on just what it means to be the top search engine on the new Social Web.

No matter where you are on the web, you’ll hear it eventually: Search and Social are merging.  The introduction of Google+ Local Pages is a prime example of search giants merging social networking with search results – using logged-in user information for better places results.  The challenge to competitor search engines is first convincing people not to use Google, and second, competing with the vast array of product Google offers.   On the whole, most average internet users are just fine with Google’s services, making the search juggernaut a household name – “Just Google it!”  Since that’s where the majority of users are, that’s also where the advertisers are.

Another challenge competitors will face is to offer a search index as extensive as Google.  It would be hard to provide better search results, better user interface, and better integration with all the other applications users use – Gmail, Youtube, Maps, and documents (Google Drive), for example.  Even those who say that mobile apps and vertical portals will weaken Google’s search profits have to consider the iOS6 Maps debacle.  One article claims that the “Giants [are] fighting a war for shrinking territory”, but even mobile apps are distributed via Google Play – which can be found on both Android and Apple devices.

But what if there was an insidious search option that’s used by over 845 million active users– 425 million users on mobile alone, each day?

What if there was an unsung search giant with over 100 billion collective connections – accounting for 1 out of every 5 pageviews on the internet world wide?

What if this search giant already had access to all the data a search engine would need to curate results based on interests, event attendance, app activity and social interaction – that was willingly given by users to the search engine, and updated constantly, making it some of the most in-depth and ACCURATE data available?

What if that Search Engine was Facebook?facebook search engine

Users may not like the idea of a Facebook Search Engine – but Facebook doesn’t strive to be a search engine.  Facebook has the power to develop a social search option, which provides accurate results based on user profile and social data already provided.

The difference between Facebook and Google is the relatively little time it takes Facebook to crawl pages and glean information, versus the time it takes Google crawl lines of code and guess everything about the search user based on a meager amount of information.  Where Google searches are all weighted nearly equally (with the exception of +1 votes for pages), and rely solely on search terms, Facebook likes, in app activities and “action links” help prioritize pages.  Facebook users actively identify the types of content they share, allowing businesses to personalize content and driving engagement.

Of course, Google offers profile personalization, and with Google+ the search giant has taken steps towards becoming more social.  Still Google+ posts on average have less than one +1, less than one reply, and less than one re-share.  Users spend on average 3 minutes a month on Google+, whereas they spend over 400 minutes on Facebook.   Google+ engagement levels are so low that they actually rank BEHIND MySpace.

All these things are changing the current search paradigm, to create new social searches that provide better results with better data.  Since Facebook has tried extremely hard to keep from competing directly with Google, Bing and Facebook have partnered to give Bing’s search results a more social aspect – this may have helped Bing’s Search Market Share, which has been slowly, but steadily increasing.  Of course, where privacy is concerned, Google still has more authority than Facebook.   Google claims that 50 million users make use of Google’s “enhanced” products each day – including Gmail.  Where search is concerned Google still eats up 66.8% of the Search Market Share.  That leaves Google as the reigning king of search… for now.

••••

For bloggers, consider what this would mean for your search results – having a branded Facebook page for your blog, online store, or web presence may make you easier to find in search results.  This is especially true if you have a good-sized FB following.  Encourage your readers and commenters to connect, and then engage them for best results.

My New Super Secret to Pretty Skin – Lavender Oil

Posted on August 21st, by Birdie in Beauty Blogs, Birdie Loves. 2 comments

I struggle with adult hormonal acne.  FYI.  As a result, I end up wearing a lot more makeup (foundation) than I probably need to, because I’m constantly battling red and ruddy skin.  Being fair-of-skin is no joke – it often means your skin is prone to rosacea and the resulting blushing, scaliness, and red patches.  It also often means your skin is super sensitive, and will react if you even THINK about putting product on it.  BOO!  Being “old enough to know better”, I had hoped this would go away, but I know that I need to be proactive in treating it.

While we’re working on the hormones and regimen that will make my skin pretty again, I’ve found a seemingly magical remedy for those big, deep, bad-boys that pop up under your skin.  It’s calming, and soothing, while drying out pimples (but not overly-drying my skin).  What is it??

Lavender Oil. 

Flowering lavender buds by Offtoriorob on Wikimedia Commons

It started when we took a little trip out to the San Juans – specifically, Friday Harbor. On the island there’s a little place called the Pelindaba Lavender Farm. I’d been recommended a trip there by a friend and since I love the smell of lavender, I picked up a little roller bottle of lavender oil (to be used as perfume, or whatever), and a spray bottle of lavender body mist (AKA: Floral water or hydrosol; basically just the oil mixed with a binder and water).

There was a little card attached to the body mist that said, “Use as a general body fragrance, as well as to rehydrate dry skin, cool sunburn, and soothe minor irritations.  For a special summertime treat, keep cold and use as a facial refresher.

Of course, it had been hot and sticky, so as I was going to bed, I sprayed some of this mist on my face – hoping it would a) be refreshing and b) would have magical powers.  I patted it in, after my moisturizer and went to bed.

In the morning I woke up and the giant pimple on my chin, that had been there for the last week had dramatically subsided.  In the interest of science (kinda) I decided to continue this same remedy the next night.  By the morning of day 2, the blemish was almost gone – and with none of the ill effects of slathering crazy chemicals on my face, trying to beat it down.

I’ve tried this again since then.  Once a big ol’ zit pops up on my face (usually just a large red lump), I squirt a little of the lavender water on a cotton pad, swish it all over the area, and wait  (after cleansing of course).  By the next morning the lump is almost gone and doesn’t hurt anymore.  If it’s a really bad blemish, I’ll put a little of the full strength oil on my fingertip and pat it into the bump.

I did a little research on the stuff and found out that the reviewers at Makeup Alley LOVE lavender oil for this same reason – giving it a 4.6 out of 5 for facial treatments.  The research I found noted that lavender is one of the gentlest essential oils – one of the only oils that can be put on the skin, undiluted, with very few negative side effects.  It’s both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. It can be applied neat on acne or bug bites – which works really well if you’re like me, and are super allergic to bug bites. For spot treatment, just dab a little bit on with a finger, or q-tip.  For larger areas, mix a drop or two of lavender oil with a little bit of lotion, and rub that shit in!

I’m not doing anything different in my routine than I have been doing – the other products I like to use are Lush’s Aquamarina (cleanser), Dermalogica Microfoliant (exfoliant), and DDF’s Moisturizing Dew (moisturizer).  I generally use tinted moisturizer by Smashbox during the day, although sometimes my skin calls for something a little heavier – like a powder foundation.  We’ll see how well this remedy continues to work.

Have you ever tried lavender as a facial treatment?  Did it work?  Did it give you hives?  Let us know in the comments!

Why I Won’t Work in my Pajamas – Freelancing for Smarties

Posted on August 10th, by Birdie in Social Media for Bloggers. 2 comments

I read the fantastic IFB article on freelancing today – it had a great tips for gals and guys who want to make the move from blogging to freelancing (to, of course, supplement their blog income – because really, who makes all that much from their blog? Not meeee. And I have NO problem with that.)

 Bombata Laptop Case

I’m pretty sure blogging helped me get the job I have now. Of course, by that, I mean: all the things I learned while learning to be a blogger helped me into my current position. I freelance – it’s a long-term contract position with a fantastic Social, Marketing, and Web company.  I work from home, so the premise is much the same. I have assignments – long term.  I pay my own self-employment taxes.  It’s adult.

The IFB tips are great, and they are just the tip – of the freelancing iceberg, that is.  Freelancing is tough, but it’s totally worth it.  Here are 3 things to remember:

1. Get up in the AM like everyone else, get ready for, and go to work.  AKA: Why I Won’t Work in My Pajamas. 

It took me a WHILE to figure this one out.  “Really?  I have to get up and go to work like everyone else?  But I work from home!”

That didn’t work for me.  I’d wake up at 9:30, sometimes even 10.  It would take forever to get moving.  I would schlep around in my pajamas… And I didn’t feel nearly as productive as if I would have gotten up at a set time, got dressed (or really, brush my hair + teeth, and put on NOT-pajamas), had breakfast, and started work at a set time.

Now I do this.  It’s important.   I do make a point to get up at a set time each day.  I make sure that I eat something, and that I put on real clothes instead of sitting around in my underwear and a sleep shirt.  Sometimes I’ll even put on tinted moisturizer (nothing crazy here) because it makes me feel like a real human being.  And when I feel like a real human being, I’m more productive.

Side note:  Some people can’t freelance because they’re at home.  There are a million things you need to do at home – like clean your bathroom – and it can be hard to prioritize your work.   Alternately, you might be tempted to slough off – like eating bonbons and reading trashy novels – instead of working, because you ARE at home.  If you struggle working from home, do the cafe thing, until you get into a set rhythm in your routine.   Alternately, look into something like Loosecubes where you can find co-working spaces.  Set yourself up for success from the start.

2. Get up periodically throughout the day and do something COMPLETELY different.

Sometimes when the Mr gets home from a long day at the office, I feel a little manic.  He’s the first person I’ve seen all day!  It’s exciting!  Sure I’m talking to people from work online, or I’m blogging, or I’m communicating in general, but the truth is that when I’m parked at my desk for 8 hours, nonstop, I start to feel a little crazy.  You know what helps?  Taking a damn break.

Wanna hear some science on that?   Taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity, while skipping them can lead to stress and exhaustion.

I make sure to take a lunch break – where I’m not at my computer.  For my sanity (and for J’s sanity when he gets home from work) it really helps if I get up, get away from my PC, and do SOMETHING.  Walk the dog.  Eat a sandwich and read a book in the sun on my porch.  Hit the gym.  Do a load of laundry.  Ultra glamour – I know – but I have realized that I need to make time to pause throughout the day.  Not just lunch breaks either: I have to write in those breaks that would be normally scheduled if I worked for anyone but me.  And it works.  I feel better about my work, and I feel like I get more done.

It also helps your brain reboot.  Working on a frustrating project?  Take a time out, do a 3 minute dance party in your office where you dance around like a damn fool to whatever floats your boat.  When you sit back down to tackle that thing that was bugging you, you’ll be able to look at it with a fresh set of eyes.

3.  Make to-do lists.  Make to-do lists of to-do lists.  I like lists. 

When I’m done in the afternoon, I like to write myself a list of “shit I need to do tomorrow”.  These are usually prioritized, so the big big tasks (or sometimes the repetitive stuff, depending on what it is) get written down first, and then lesser tasks.

Lists are perfect for freelancers because a) crossing stuff off  gives you a sense of accomplishment in a medium where your end result isn’t necessarily tangible and where there’s not really anyone to congratulate you on – you know, transferring 1100 products from one site to another or whatever it is you’re working on, and b) lists help me stay organized in what I need to do and what I’ve been able to do.  They help me for billing purposes later – so that when I’m invoicing, I can type all the stuff I’ve crossed out into my time sheet.  Bravo!

Bonus: Get better at managing your own time. 

Yeah, lists will help.  And being productive because you know when to get up and dance out your frustration will help.  But the best thing you can do for yourself as a freelancer is to get into the habit of documenting and estimating how long it’ll take you to do things.  Your boss wants 3 blog posts done for this client in an hour – do you know how long it ACTUALLY takes to do that?

As a freelancer, time management is CRUCIAL.  My friend David SWEARS by the Harvest app, saying that it’s great for tracking time, adding notes, and estimating time. If you’re not ready to schill out the $50 to get it, use Excel and a stopwatch.  Note the time you started, how long it took you, and what you did.  Start this now.  Do it for your blog posts (I’ve been working on this post for exactly half an hour – which is pretty good for a 1000 word post).  Do it for your laundry.  Do it for your morning routine (didn’t Fabulously Broke write about that?).

Just don’t beat yourself up when you go over your estimate.  Adjust your estimate, and maybe find ways to shave off a little bit of time here or there, until you can become accurate.  Really REALLY accurate.

So that’s that.  Tips for freelancers.  Do you have any super great tips for freelancers that I didn’t write about?  Put ‘em in the comments!

Fashion for the Rest of Us: No Sleep Til’…..

Posted on August 8th, by Birdie in Bonne Vie Birdie, Fashion and Style, Outfit Photos. No Comments

If you and I are friends on Twitter, you’ll remember the INSANE amount of Instagram photos I posted (along with my friend David Hoang) from my east coast trips.  I tried to capture snaps from my favorite places and document as much as possible – so I remember where to go for my next trip!

Pineapple + Hicks – Brooklyn Heights

One thing I loved was people watching – either while wandering around, or while riding the Subway.  There are a lot of super super chic ladies who ride the subway – which means a lot of outfit inspiration (and also some Vice-worthy “Don’t's”.  Would it have been super creepy to snap photos?  We’re talking denim vest, no bra, hot pants + a garter belt, with sparkly high tops and a teeeeeeeeny backpack.  David will totally agree on the weirdness factor.) .

I felt like there was some truth in saying that in New York, you can really work a “look” – style is on display and if you ever want to try a look, NYC is the place to do it.  That said, I saw a lot of “Fashion for the rest of us”.  Easy, go-to outfits for when you’re sipping an iced Americano at Vineapple in Brooklyn.  In fact, Brooklyn is where I saw this look – a look I liked so much I had to go out and find the most colorful farmer shirt I could to recreate it.  Brooklyn girls are babes.

brooklyn4-redone

The recipe: one super colorful checked shirt (Old Navy. Not my usual, but this shirt was perfect), one pair of slim (black) trousers (Vivienne Tam), one pair of little white flats (Vintage from Sustalux), add jewelry and accessories as needed.

brooklyn2-redone

I’ve been lazy and my hair is long enough now to toss it up in a messy… something.

brooklyn3-redone

Add a couple funny faces, and light, summertime makeup (tinted moisturizer, a little eyeliner, a little lipgloss, mascara, and a peachy bronzer).

Voila!  I like the vintagey look of this top tucked into slim pants (it feels very mid-century to me).   I also love the white-white-white accessories.  White flats, white bag, white watch, white sunnies.  High contrast, low effort.

I know someone’s wondering “How the EFF  are you wearing that in the middle of summer?!”  Lucky us, it’s 65 degrees right now.  Our little secret is that Seattle summers mean temperatures anywhere from 65-93 on any given day.  Most of the time it’s between 75-80.   Of course, we only get sun for 3 months out of the year.  Hooray!  (I love it, but I know sun-lovers don’t.)

What do you think of this Brooklyn-inspired outfit?  I say, “Thank you random subway girl for showin’ me how it’s done.”